I’ve spent the last week at home, using up some vacation days before the end of the year. It was planned to be a “staycation”, and Superstorm Sandy certainly guaranteed that. I planned on cooking a lot and I certainly have. Here’s what I’ve been up to…..
Beef stew is one of the classic comfort foods for me and my husband. It probably doesn’t hurt that the sword and sorcery books we read often have the adventurers eating stew in some inn or tavern just before going off to save the world. The ingredients are pretty standard; the process, not so much.
Take a 3-5 pound chuck roast. Remove fat. Cut meat into approximately 1″ cubes. While cutting meat up, fry removed fat in large saucepan. Add a cup of chopped onions and brown them almost burning them with the fat. Add cubed beef and brown. Remove rendered gristly bits and throw away; keep the fat and tasty brown bits. Deglaze pan with one beer, preferably a dark beer. Add onion soup mix with enough water to cover beef and cover pan, cook on low heat until beef is tender, about an hour.
While cooking beef, peel 4 medium potatoes, 6 medium carrots and two medium onions. Chop into approximately 1″ chunks. Place in stewpot with enough water to cover by an inch. Add herbs and spices to taste, we usually use tarragon, sage, thyme, black pepper and garlic. Cook until just tender.
Add beef to cooked vegetables. Cook together for 1/2 hour. We find this keeps the beef the dominant flavor in the stew.
For a good addition, take unpeeled garlic bulbs and cook with vegetables until soft. Take cooked garlic, squeeze out soft cloves and mix with softened butter. Great on homemade bread.
Being bored during the storm, I was looking for a recipe that only called for things I had in the house. I dug out my copy of “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” and found their recipe for quick and dirty brioche dough. Now, it might only take 5 minutes to bring the ingredients together, but it will take at least a few hours, and likely overnight, to chill the dough enough to work with easily. If you don’t, it’ll be one big tar baby, latching hold of everything in your kitchen.
Brioche dough(I cut the recipe from 4 loaves to 1 loaf, so the amounts are a bit odd.)
3/8 cup lukewarm water
3/8 tbsp yeast
3/8 tsp salt
1/8 cup honey
3/8 cup butter, melted and cooled (I use regular salted butter, the recipe calls for unsalted)
1 5/8 cup of all purpose flour
Mix yeast, salt, eggs, honey, melted butter, and water in container. Mix in flour. The dough will be loose e.g. sticky and slightly lumpy. That’s okay. Cover bowl with plastic. Let raise on countertop for 2 hours. Then place in refrigerator and chill, preferably overnight.
When you are ready to bake the cinnamon rolls, first place a paste made from 6 tablespoons of butter and ½ cup brown sugar into the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan. Cover evenly. Set your oven to 350 degrees F.
Scoop chilled dough onto a floured surface. Dust top with flour and roll to 1/8” to ¼” in thickness as a rectangle about 12 inches by 8 inches. Spread with a mixture of 4 tbsp softened butter, ½ cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp of cinnamon and a 1/4 tsp nutmeg. You can also add chopped nuts here. Roll from the long side. When you have your “snake”, cut into 8 equal pieces. Place the pieces cut side up in the cake pan. Allow to raise 1 hour in the pan. Then bake for 40 minutes. Beware, the caramel glaze can bubble out. I’d suggest (after having had to clean my oven) to place the pan on a baking sheet or a sheet of aluminium foil.
Flip cinnamon rolls onto a plate as soon as you remove them from the oven. If you don’t, be ready to chisel them out. They are, of course, best warm from the oven, but they do stay moist for a day or two afterward (if they last that long).
Meat PiesAnd finally, I got around to making more meat pies (recipe here) and taking a picture of them. We got a case of Evil Genius Beer Company’s Good and Evil Ale. It’s a sharply effervescent ale. The color is light gold with a gold tinged head and a fairly strong hop taste. It goes well with the succulent meat pies.